You’re sitting at a table over lunch and one friend claims the first computer had less than one KB of memory while the other is certain it had at least one KB of memory. There’s free Wi-Fi available and you have a smart phone. In less than a minute you’ve resolved the dispute. You’ve established that the first personal computer is regarded as the Kenbak-1 and that it had 256 bytes of memory. There’s a reason modern times are called the information age. In-between two bites of your lunch you’ve already found exactly what you were looking for.
But what does all this knowledge and power mean in the context of education? Edu Blogger Tony Bates asks that in the digital age “is learning specific content a goal in itself, or is it a means to an end? For instance, is there an intrinsic value in knowing the periodic table, or the dates of battles, or are they means to an end, such as designing experiments or understanding why French is an official language in Canada?”
It seems now, more than ever, the goals of learning content need to be clearly drawn and made clear to everyone involved. What’s the value of knowing facts when they’re always at our finger tips anyway? Is it practical to sink time into learning facts for a field of knowledge that’s moving so fast everything we know now could be outdated in two years? Or is it dangerous to think like this. Are facts the currency of knowing the world and learning to think critically?
With so much knowledge at our disposal it’s essential that we learn how to manage and control it – but this of course requires content in itself. It seems that we are now faced with finding balance between the content we need to know to develop our skills and the skills we need to have in order to find the right content. This might feel like a new cycle of learning and what learning means, but what certainly hasn’t changed is that education is the catalyst.
For more on teaching and content in the digital age read what Tony Bates has to say here.